We have all been in what seemed to be a “pit” in life. Maybe things were not as bad as they appeared, but the way our minds spin things (in this case as a downward spiral), the toughness of our situation can go from bad to worse.
Recently in my series in which I have been preaching through the book of Lamentations, I covered the third chapter in which Jeremiah presents a description of the pit in which he found himself. He concluded that all peace, prosperity, strength, and hope were long gone. Sounds bad, doesn’t it?
Lamentations 3:1–18 (ESV) — 1 I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; 2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; 3 surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. 4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones; 5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6 he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. 7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has made my chains heavy; 8 though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; 9 he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; he has made my paths crooked. 10 He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; 11 he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; 12 he bent his bow and set me as a target for his arrow. 13 He drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver; 14 I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the object of their taunts all day long. 15 He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood. 16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; 17 my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; 18 so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”
We must remember that this is a biblical lament of which you’ll find four important elements in this grief processing mechanism given for us by God. The four important elements that take grief filled complaining to a life changing and faith building experience include: a respectful addressing of God as you call out to Him, a brutally honest and descriptive complaint, specific requests, and a word of trust and/or praise.
It’s easy to spew out complaints. People do it all the time. In fact, it could be said that it has become our favorite past time. Like that old saying, “if you want to get people agreeing with you just complain about something and you’re bound to get people who are more than ready to get on board with you.” Complaining is something that stirs up God’s anger. If you don’t believe me look up how many times the children of Israel grumbled and complained about one thing after another and how each time, God’s anger was stirred. The bottom line is this: do not complain.
But you might say, “my situation is really bad, and I don’t think holding in my grief is working.” I guarantee it is not working nor will it work. Holding it in will only add to any bitterness that has already been building, but merely complaining is additional fuel for the fire of bitterness. God has not left us just to grieve in the pit. Rather, a lament helps us find our way out as we bring Him our griefs and our sorrows. As Jeremiah has been calling upon the Lord, laying out his complaint, speaking on behalf of the people of Jerusalem upon the fall of the city to Babylon, he concludes as noted above speaking as if he is in the pit with no hope. Yet as he continues his lament, God allows him to see a point of trust and encouragement in his actions of remembering, rejecting, and recalling.
Lamentations 3:19–21 (ESV) — 19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! 20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. 21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
- First, he remembered where he was and what he was experiencing. Duh! How could he forget and how can we forget our situation when we are in the pit? That is the point. We can’t just forget it. It plays over and over in our minds. So, Jeremiah tell us he remembered or rehearsed the misery of the situation.
- Secondly, he rejected the situation by realizing the more he thought about things the worse he felt.
- Thirdly, he changed the focus of what he thought upon as he recalled things he knew about God and he began to live with expectation (hope).
That sounds surprisingly good. About what specially did he put his mind?
Lamentations 3:22–24 (ESV) — 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The focus of Jeremiah which is the key to leaving the prison of the pit of his mind was the Lord. Specially:
- The steadfast love of the Lord (His unconditional covenant love that never ends)
- The mercies (blessings) of the Lord that go on and on, in fact are fresh every day.
- The faithfulness of the Lord which is beyond measure.
Jeremiah is teaching by his lament. His lament is a song of grief and sorrow, to point his heart and that of his audience, toward what he knows to be true despite what he sees. The lament is like emptying the cup of all the crud of bitterness of which we are holding in grief and complaint, but holding out the cup nevertheless for God to fill, trusting His attributes that we have learned from His word which give us ever reason to rely upon Him. Similarly, we find this experience in many places in the book of Psalms.
Psalm 77:6–12 (ESV) — 6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: 7 “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? 8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah 10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. 12 I will ponder all your work and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Maybe you feel like you are in the pit. You are not alone. The Bible is full of real-life experiences with living solutions which point to God’s way of dealing with the situation, taking us from a “no hope” condition to having hope.
Romans 15:4 (ESV) — 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Check it out for yourself – the book of Lamentations. Links to the sermons I have preached are on my website.